Eden Log Review
Eden Log begins much like one of those minimal information puzzles that pub quiz geeks like to annoy their friends with. You know the kind of thing, "you are in the middle of nowhere, miles from electricity with only a magnifying glass and the hot sun, how do you shoot down an oncoming nuclear missile?"! In this case we meet a nameless, memory less man, who is barely visible in poor light and is lost somewhere in the bowels of the earth. Gradually he crawls out of the ooze around him, finds a source of light and then discovers an exit where he is greeted by televised messages explaining that if he climbs out of the underground he can become a full citizen.
So most definitely, allegory raises its ugly head when you have so little a sense of setting, character or motivation. Is this a future world that is analogous to our own, is our man a symbol of mankind and just why is it so dark? Whilst I can enjoy that kind of metaphorical level, Eden Log doesn't really deliver a punch or an insight that justifies such a consistent reading. In the end, this seems more like a film that runs out of revelation and innovation and finally resolves itself in a rather overused Matrix like twist.
For its opening 40 minutes though, I was much more hopeful that the constant shots of dank muddy retro future underground would lead to something more impressive. Our nameless man discovers video files that talk about a rebellion of immigrants, and you wonder about this as subtext for modern day France. He also finds the maze's architect and you think conspiracy thriller, and he finds himself experimented on by a scientist with suggestions of dystopian slavery. Most interesting of all the aborted ideas within here is the concept of an energy poor world rushing to an energy solution that will bring its ruin, and the film wears ecological colours briefly. But all of these interesting ideas go nowhere and find themselves succeeded by an updating of the notion that "Soylent Green is people".
The fact is that once the film starts to develop and explain it becomes far less absorbing or curious. Like a puzzle when you know the solution, the second half of the film explains the first but the information provided is not as entertaining or astounding as the film-makers probably intended. The final reveal of our man's identity and his role in this world underground leads to some startling images, but then a profound sense of anti-climax. Rather than offer light on the real world, the film finishes itself in fantasy and science fiction without resonance for the viewer.
There is a large amount to appreciate technically. The sheer lack of information, light or sense that is given to the viewer at the beginning is very brave, and it says a lot for the director's skills that the story remains compelling for the first half with the spectator so disoriented. For a large percentage of its running time, themes of beast and man are presented through the mutated underground dwellers and the evolving man whose journey we follow. There is also a clever use of the limited sets and occasionally the action reaches Tsukamoto like levels of frenzy, but with the jigsaw complete there is little left to say or reflect on for what is a movie you will watch once only.
Eden Log isn't bad, it just isn't as clever as you'd like, or as daring as it could be.
The main feature is about as dark and desaturated a film as you will ever see, so the main challenges for this transfer, which is in the correct OAR, are to retain excellent contrast and keep detail visible. In this respect, this transfer is above average with reasonable black levels and strong sharpness but there are instances of combing and compression artefacts, and the choice has been made to present this interlaced and with two almost identical versions of the film sharing the disc(six seconds of an inter-title is the only difference I found). This fussiness is rather annoying but I am not sure bit rates are affected too much by this choice of two versions as the film is only just over 95 minutes long.
There is not much dialogue in the film, so the English dub has little to replace but I did find the voice used for the female character rather irritating and the lead sounded very like Kurt Russell. The English stereo track is perfectly acceptable but the surround elements are intrinsic to the atmosphere of the film and they are handled much more satisfactorily by the French 5.1 mix which gives oomph to the bestial moments and adds dimension to the caves, with echoes from all around the channels. The French track is also more successful in creating ambience for the long periods without dialogue or the set pieces of near silent fear. You can't switch between tracks whilst watching and the subs are only available on the English version in what is one of the most pedantic menu and dvd designs I have come across.
There are two directly film related extras in a making of featurette and a short teaser. The featurette mixes onset footage with interviews with the lead actor Clovis Cornillac and the producer Cedric Jimenez, and employs split screens to seem rather clever and winning. Despite both men's attempts to claim the film as a future classic and some very pretentious narration about the struggle to complete the project and the vision behind it, I was left even more unimpressed as the film is plugged endlessly beyond its merits. Trailers for other Momentum releases start the disc.
A bit of Total Recall, a bit Soylent Green and a bit of The Matrix but a story only good for a single play. Eden Log is presented on a fussy DVD and will most likely be an ok rental rather than a keeper.